An ecumenical team of more than 15 persons from member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and associated ecumenical organizations will attend the 4th Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) to be held in Bali, Indonesia.

The ecumenical team maintains its criticism of the "Chairman's Text" which will be tabled for negotiation at the PrepCom. "The Chairman's Text does not address the ethical challenges of sustainability," says Wendy Flannery from the Sisters of Mercy. "The current version emphasizes the role of trade, investment and partnerships with business for sustainable development. But there is strong and growing evidence that the conventional growth-oriented economic model contributes more to poverty and environmental destruction than to just and lasting solutions for the majority of the world's population. Many of the proposals in the text lack the urgency and specificity that could be provided by agreed timetables for implementation," she says.

One significant omission in the text is lack of recognition of the major impact of militarism as a factor in undermining sustainable communities, according to the ecumenical team. Massive amounts of financial, natural and human resources are used for arms production and acquisition, reducing what is available to address poverty and meet development needs. Armed conflicts are responsible for the worst ecological degradation. The small arms trade and landmines fuel human and ecological destruction particularly in local and regional conflicts in resource-rich areas.

Reservations reflected in the Chairman's Text to full support of the Kyoto Protocol on the reduction of greenhouse gases contributing to global warming and climate change are another alarming sign for the ecumenical team. One of the achievements of the follow-up to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio is at stake here. "It is clear that while the impact of climate change is of global import, it will be greatest on communities that already suffer poverty and marginalization, e.g., low-lying Small Island States," says Sr Flannery.

The Chairman's Text also ignores the critical significance of Indigenous Peoples in relation to the fundamental issues of sustainable development, says the ecumenical team. Indigenous Peoples are at the cutting edge of the current crisis. Their communities are concrete examples of sustainable societies, historically evolved in diverse ecosystems. Yet today, in a globalizing world, they are fighting for their very survival. One clear criterion for the successful implementation of sustainable development must be actions to secure Indigenous Peoples' rights and wellbeing.

"The ecumenical team's perspective in the WSSD process is grounded in a conviction of the sacredness of all creation, and of life as an interplay of spiritual and physical dimensions," says Dr Martin Robra from the "Justice, Peace and Creation" team of the WCC, a member of the delegation. "While the earth is the common home for all, until today, rich industrialized countries use most of the world's resources while the benefits of those resources are not shared equitably. From an ecological point of view, the North is deeply indebted to the South. We should speak more of ecological debt in addition to the call for the cancellation of foreign debt."

In view of the reality in his country, Sipho Mtetwa of the South African Council of Churches underlines that "The decisive question for our involvement in the WSSD is: Who will be the beneficiaries of the Summit? What will the results be for the people of Alexandra or Soweto? What does sustainability mean for them? What is it that has to be sustained? I think of people, of their sustenance and livelihood."

"Cancellation of foreign debt is one of the requirements that would lead to more just relationships and would give indebted countries the space they need to develop better health and education systems and ecological recovery. We should speak more of ecological debt, because the economies of the rich industrialized countries use most of the world's resources, while the benefits of those resources are not shared equitably", says Robra.

For further information contact:

Dr Martin Robra or Sister Wendy Flannery

At the Bali Gardenia Suites, Bali: Tel: +62 361-773 808; fax: +62 361-773 737

Mobile phone for Dr Robra: +62 812-367-9578

Email:, marked "for attention" of either Robra or Flannery.

WCC Media Relations office (Geneva) : Rev Bob Scott : Tel: 41-22-791 6166 or 41-79-304 7612

See the WSSD "anchor page" on our site